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Many years ago, on Alleppey Express,
Unable to sleep, I stood at the door,
Looking at the stars, humming INXS,
And spied on the top berth, a lovely F24.

Last week I saw Dasvidaniya, the ten-things-to-do-before-I-die movie. At the end of the movie the cast talks about their bucket lists, and amongst the usual see-a-new-place, be-a-better-dad stuff Suchithra Pillai stood out, and I quote, “get together with all of my friends…whom I’ve been in touch with ever since I was a child…one big get-together before I go”. I couldn’t sleep, what an idea, a big bang before I conk, that would be something…I started calling, texting, mailing, scrapping, poking ‘all the girls I knew when I was single’

Do you remember an inn, (deleted),
Beside the sluggish Ouse,
The wide grey sky, and the pigeon-pie,
Two very old canoes
In a corrugated shed
Behind bamboos?
Do you remember the kisses,
The novels left unread,
The moorhens’ cry and the clouds piled high,
The home-made ginger bread?
And the abundant blisses
Of that brass bed?

Most of the replies were on the lines of…

Not the inn, nor the place,
Nor the dance, nor your face,
Nor the fleas. Will you please
Understand that I’m ageing, bourgeois, and am waging
A war to keep up
(On income diminished, I’m socially finished and lonely as hell);
That girl who went prancing and glancing and dancing
Through your fields of wild oats
Was not I.
I’m lined and refined and my husband is kind
But quite cold
A wife who has bedded on straw in the raw he’d abhor.
’Tis a lie, ’twasn’t I;
Ask no more.

The stuff in blue above is not mine (of course!). The verses are from one of my fav books, Peacocks & Commas, Spectator competition’s greatest hits collection, choke full of wit and verbal dexterity. Example: Hamlet summarised in three limericks, Kafka rewritten Wodehouse-style, poems in praise of the lavatory.

Peacocks & Commas was edited by Joanna Lumley. She was big in Britian in the ‘50s – model, actress, TV star, Bond babe. (Recently she was in the news again, celebrating some Gorkha immigration case verdict).

Thanks Joanna.

Credits: Do you remember an inn – Ginger Jeleneck, Not the inn, nor the place – Mrs. MG Lloyd.

Most movies about writers, journalists, etc. would have at its core a scene in which we see the actor at a keyboard – cue zoom out, pan, montage, music builds up, zoom in, crescendo, close-up – fingers typing THE END, krr, krr, krr, the novel, screenplay, report is ready. Only, nobody tells us what happened between the hyphens.

I for one start with an outline, cut, paste, hew, hack, struggle with it for a couple of days till it takes over my brain, initiates an infinite rewrite loop…till suddenly, like some North Korean stadium display thing, everything fits together and…works.

But today morning was different. While driving to work, playing Dodge ‘Em Cars on Royapettah High, I almost subconsciously started composing a post on, er, driving to work, playing Dodge ‘Em Cars on Royapettah High. The words came ea-si-ly, a little too easily, there was something about the flow, the cadence, that was familiar…as if I was channelling something from the depths of my memory.

Took me an hour to fish out the original…it is from the movie The Perfect Storm, the Clooney – Mastrantonio scene.

The fog’s just lifting.
You throw off your bowline, throw off your stern.
You head out the South Channel…
…past Rocky Neck, Ten Pound Island…
…past Niles Pond, where I skated as a kid.
Blow your horn…
…and wave to the lighthouse keeper’s kid on Thatcher Island.
Then the birds show up.
Black-backs, herring gulls, big dump ducks.
The sun hits you.
Head north, open up to 12.
You’re steaming now.
The guys are busy, you’re in charge.
You know what?
You’re a goddamn swordboat captain.
Is there anything better in the world?

Now, back to my stuff. To use a phrase made famous by mimicry guys, ഇനി ക്ലൂണി ചെന്നൈയില്‍ കാര്‍ ഓടിക്കുകയാണെന്നു വിചാരിക്കുക

The sun is blazing.
You start the car, release the hand-brake,
You head for Royapettah High…
…past Vivekananda College, the roundana…
…past Vijaya Medicals, and almost drive over a kid.
Blow your horn…
…and shake your fist at the shop keeper’s kid.
Then the natives show up.
Black faced…TVS50s, big dump trucks…
An auto hits you.
Head north, open the window…
You’re screaming now.
The cops are busy, nobody is in charge.
You know what? You’re driving in goddamn Chennai.
Is there anything worse in the world?


DC has this whole plagiarism thing covered…


KJ Joseph, our STC and Rajagiri batchmate, has published a book, Fail Fast, Move Faster.

Joseph Pally is a graduate of the Indian Institute of Technology, a prestigious engineering school in Madras, India, and holds two post-graduate degrees from Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, USA.

He is a well-known software scientist, he is credited with the invention of ZCubes and many other advanced software technologies. He is the CEO of ZCubes, Inc., a high-technology company and leads several software companies and institutions. He lives with his small family in Katy, Texas, USA.



“The truly successful ones have the ability to overcome their mistakes, learn from them, and never repeat them again. Fail Fast, Move Faster is all about mistakes and how to handle them. In a world that looks up to success and perfection, the author gives an honest, real-world view of how great things actually happen. Bold, different, innocent, charming, inspiring and fun.” Ashok Rao, CEO & Producer

“Traversing from the tales of intrepid youth to entrepreneur and engaging family man, Fail Fast, Move Faster reminds us all that life is most definitely a magnificent journey. Share joy, sorrow, invigorating failure and success that is merely a stepping stone. There is no destination, take the lessons to heart and bash on, regardless.” Michael Hidalgo, Venture Capitalist.

“Spirited and playful, these little anecdotes hit home the message that in the Colosseum of life every enactment reveals a lesson to the discerning audience.” Radhika Nair, Author

“Wonderful in it’s ability to deeply penetrate complex issues in a refreshingly simple way, this book will bring out the child in every adult and put the adult in every child!” Sundaram Srinivasan, Venture Capitalist, Poet & Author

“The elegance and simplicity in these short stories bring out the beauty of human life. Start believing in good old existence yet again…” Desh Kapoor, Author

“Traveling great distances in time and space, Fail Fast, Move Faster traverses great cultural divides in personal and professional life, with clever wit & humor. Joseph Pally creatively expands lifeʼs simple, real world mistakes into profound fundamental truths. Positive and endearing, yet complex in scope, the authorʼs message is simple: the proper attitude turns every moment & experience in life into a profound learning lesson. As a professional artist & actress from Cochin India, often immersed in dramatic plots of Indian fantasy, I appreciate the authorʼs skill in connecting to any reader by transforming simple real stories into lively, endearing, and poignant life lessons.” Divya Unni, Classical Artist & Actress, Sreepadam.

“Joseph Pally the innovative technocrat, we know. But Joseph Pally, the writer, is a revelation — one of the very few, who can entertain even, as they inspire. The chapters set in his native India ring so true — I know, because I have lived and worked in the same place.” Anand Parthasarathy, Chief Correspondent & Reporter, The Hindu.

Read About, Buy

Joseph Pally with yours truly, 1975 (More STC pics here and here)

I love books, their heft, feel and smell, and book collections…always envied the collections my uncles had, and when I was in class 5 or 6 put together my first collection in a wall-mounted shelf in my room – Balaramas, a few Amar Chitra Kathas, a dozen paperbacks…Arabian Nights, Bible stories, etc. – all numbered and stacked heightwise.

In a couple of years I moved all the embarrassing age-inappropriate stuff to the store, decided my collection would have to wait, focused on reading…started raiding the Rajagiri library, joined Ernakulam Public Library, Chavara, Eloor, started hanging out at Paico, touching and feeling books, righting crooked stacks – those days my biggest fantasy was to marry Paico swami’s daughter.

BTW, Jojo Jose, been so long…and thanks for all the books.

I discovered magazines during pre-degree. Was a sucker for anything billed as a special issue, bought a huge pile of stuff – India Today, Sportstar, Sunday, Illustrated Weekly, Sun…and once, from a paper mart, 20 years’ worth of Reader’s Digest.

My book-buying spree really picked up steam while at REC (enhanced cash flow)…couple of years and I had to get an old kitchen shelf refurbished to house the collection. After engineering I took a break and went to Delhi, spent most of the vacation bargain-hunting at CP and Darya Ganj, and came back fully loaded – Portnoy’s Complaint, Catcher in the Rye, Bell Jar…   

Next chapter, Chennai. Bought a huge stack of books from the roadside bhais between GPO and LIC – classics, best-sellers, books-not-available-at-the-shop-around-the-corner (Henry Miller, Anais Nin, HHGG, books on art, aircrafts), and lucky finds (Johnny Got His Gun, I Heard the Owl Call My Name, Illustrated Beatles Lyrics).

Perambur. Chacko’s stuff on the left side. Meri Junk on the right…the beginning of the Chennai collection.

Besant Nagar



Home. Complete works of Kurt Vonnegut, Joseph Heller, John Irwing, Tom Robbins, Tom Wolf…RDs from 1965 to 1995 in the shelf on the left. Peace.

My desert island collection…My people always found it a little strange, the way I used to take pics of my books and bookshelves, but think there is hardly anything as beautiful as a stack of books…

…and i am not alone. Check out John Mark Gleadow

Epilogue. Part of my bookshelf on goodreads.commy-books-5k
…to be continued.

“I received a letter this morning from a young stranger named John Figler, of Crown Point, Indiana…


…John Figler is a law-abiding high-school student. He says in his letter that he has read almost everything of mine and is now prepared to state the single idea that lies at the core of my life’s work so far. The words are his: “Love may fail, but courtesy will prevail.”


This seems true to me – and complete. So I am now in the abashed condition, five days after my fifty-sixth birthday, of realizing that I needn’t have bothered to write several books. A seven-word telegram would have done the job.




That was Kurt Vonnegut in Jailbird.


Last week a stranger who read my blog ‘end-to-end’ summed me up as follows:

  • A great friend of your friends
  • You love yourself
  • Young at heart
  • Loves your son dearly and probably his mother too
  • Used to be a flirt, now like the company of women
  • Like wine and dine
  • Lazy
  • You’ve a good sense of humour
  • A voracious reader
  • A movie buff
  • Lover of music
  • A happy soul at the end of the day

I needn’t have bothered to write all those posts. A dozen bullet points would have done the job.


That is a mnemonic to help you remember the spelling of Mnemonic. Mnemonics are words or phrases which are difficult to forget, used to remember things that are difficult to remember. (That, OK, reminds me of my fav intro line: Name is Babu Kuriakose, the first name is easy to remember, the second, difficult to forget. BHH)

Through the word mnemonic was never used, in school we imbibed a lot of them:

  • Geography: HOMES – Great Lakes: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior; LONGitudes
  • History: SPA – Socrates, Plato, Aristotle
  • Physics: VIBGYOR; V = IR (Iyer!, Voltage = Current x Resistance, Ohm’s Law)

(Remember Ohm’s Law. Vinu Joseph Cherian – any idea where he is? – invented the Ohm’s Law chant. Here’s how you do it – start saying ‘Ohm’s Law’ over and over again, first at normal pace, then fast, then slow, then very slow, then very fast…When 48 guys do this in harmony, at the top of the voice, the effect is awesome)

  • English: Ass Ass I Nation – Spelling help

(Remember ‘To Get Her’: Mathew Sir had completed a session on syllables, he asked the class to suggest words for him to demo and Joe Antony shouted ‘Together’. Mathew Sir fell for it…to-get-her, the class was ecstatic, and Joe got thrashed)

  • Guitar class: Every Good Boy Does Fine – EBGDF, Treble Clef Lines (I Googled!)

We also developed mnemonics for a lot of schoolboy stuff:

  • ‘APES WIN’ – The Test Playing Nations: Australia, Pakistan, England, Sri Lanka, West Indies, India, New Zealand
  • ‘Pascoe Bowls And Misses Stumps’ – Australian Test Venues: Perth, Brisbane, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney
  • Clockwise – CLOSEwise

I remember the first time I came across the word mnemonics – in Popular Mechanics, in REC Reading Room, 1984 – and also some of the mnemonics mentioned in the article (the power of mnemonics!)

  • ‘My Very Earnest Mother Just Served Us Nine Pickles’ – The Nine Planets (Pluto was not just a dog in those days)
  • ‘Sohcahtoa, Indian Chief’ – Trigonometry : Sin = Opposite/Hypotenuse, Cos = Adjacent /Hypotenuse, Tan = Opposite/Adjacent
  • ‘Washington And Jefferson Made Many A Joke’…(American Presidents, in order: Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Munroe, Adams, Jackson)…I cant remember (!) the middle portion of the verse, but it ends with ‘Ran To Every Kitchen Jar Nook. Ford Capitulated Readily’ (Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan).


Thanks Judy. Your book on mnemonics took me on a major nostalgia trip…

I woke up at 3:00 in the morning, could not go back to sleep, stood on the balcony staring at the morning star – till I realised it was some flight coming in. Revelation, truth, epiphany…things are not what they seem to be, airplanes and pop philosophy, a Richard Bach moment. “Remember that this world is not reality. It’s a playground of appearances on which you practice overcoming seems-to-be with your knowing of what is”.

That is from Bach’s latest, a collection of quotes packaged as the Messiah’s Handbook. A quickie, but I bought it for old time’s sake, and who knows, perhaps he needs the money – divorcing your soulmate is expensive business.

My first Bach was Nothing by Chance. Barnstorming in the Midwest, “Come up with us where only birds and angels fly!”. Biplane, Gift of Wings, Illusions…wow! fan to follower to convert before you can say “Everything in this book may be wrong”. Then came The Bridge across Forever, which I read when I myself was on a soulmate quest. Of course, then it sounded very profound and all that, and not like some teen fantasy – working his way across the country, sampling women…Then came the divorce, and I never forgave him for that.

But I stood by Dick, I bought all the books he wrote. And I hope he will one day realise “You are never given a wish without also being given the power to make it true. You may have to work for it, however”.

Tailpiece: My cousin’s non-mallu girlfriend used to call him “Wookie”, and for a long time she didn’t get it why his friends greeted him with “wookie?

1976-77. Class VI or VII. We had a Malayalam text book called ‘Bharathapuzha allenkil Nila Devi’ (I am not very sure about the ‘Devi’ part). It was a travelogue, about a trip down Bharathapuzha, with stop overs at Lakkadi, Cheruthuruthy, Thirunavaya, etc.

I would like to buy a copy of the book. Can you help?

Click here for The Hindu Magazine article on the river.

Photo: S. Ramesh Kurup, The Hindu


Manassariyum Yanthram, the first book that i borrowed from Rajagiri library, started off a romance with books and libraries that continues to the day.

Last month i saw the book in DC Books, Cochin, and it was like running into a long-lost friend…

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August 2020